Visiting Hokkaido is never complete without some fruit picking. While Japan Guide offered a couple of fruit farms, it was through chance that I discovered a list all other fruit picking farms which I could choose from. And what I loved about the list was that they indicated what types of fruits are planted at the farm, which are available in the various months, and how much they cost. As we were planning to head to Otaru in the afternoon, we decided to head to JR Niki Station and try out cherry picking at Fruit House Yasuzakien, and blueberry picking at Very Berry Farm Ueda.
Unfortunately, it started raining heavily as our train headed towards Niki Station, and as much as we hoped, there was no tourist information centre at the station. While the station provided a map of some of the nearby farms, it was in Japanese of which I could not understand given my limited understanding. We noticed however a shuttle bus from a nearby fruit farm coming to pick up visitors. Although this served to give us an alternative to get to a fruit farm nice and convenient, we chose not to hop on in the end.
Based on the map I had, we quickly made our way to our destination when the rain subsided. Our joy was short lived however as it quickly got heavy again. Braving the rain, we came by a fruit stall and decided in the end to just give it a try when we found out that they provided fruit picking services.
Even though it was raining, thanks to the canopy, it was not that wet the fruit grounds. While we could only pick out cherries, the farm also had other fruits like blueberry, plums and grapes.
Cherry picking was a really simple yet fun activity. Holding onto the stalk, a simple twist would break it free from the tree branch. Although we are more accustomed to deep red cherries from where we are from with some sweet and some tangy, these lightly hued cherries that we tried were extremely sweet and delicious! A quick check on the Internet says that it is called rainier cherry, and is the sweetest of the breed. Indeed, every mouthful we had was a wonderful burst of sweet juice, and we thought that we would just have a fruit lunch this time round.
Having enjoyed the sweetness of the fruit, we thought that we could perhaps bring it home for our family to try. And so, we brought out a basketful of cherries, and through hand signs and limited Japanese communication, we found out that we could not bring the fruits pass customs. Imagine our horror when we realized the amount of cherries we had to finish up because any cherry brought out of the farm was charged by weight. Thankfully the owners were very kind to let us eat on the spot as we decided to pack a small amount back.
And when we were done, the young daughter kindly offered to give us a car ride back to the train station because it was still raining heavily. Honestly, I could not thank them enough for their kind hospitality, and am very touched by their gesture. (苙井园)
For those interested, their address is:
笠井果樹園, opposite of post office
3 Chome-94 Kitamachi Niki, Yoichi District, Hokkaido Prefecture 048-2405. +81 135-32-2507
Our afternoon was spent in Otaru braving the crazy winds and rain. While we were soaked through despite having an umbrella, we chanced upon the Otaru Tide Festival carnival whose participants continued with their performances despite the wet weather. The festival is held every year whereby the citizens of Otaru give thanks to the sea and hand down their history and culture of the city to the next generation and begin praying for the development of Otaru.
While Otaru is a really nice and quaint town to explore, doing that during a storm is quite a downer. We did however manage to purchase some practical souvenirs for ourselves and family which helped bring a little sunshine to our otherwise wet day. And since we were in there, we decided to end our wet day by having a seafood dinner given that it is a harbour town.
After having a hard time deciding which restaurant to go to given that there were many of them lined up on the streets, we finally settled for Sushi Izakaya Machino.
We ordered their don where we could choose 3 types of seafood sashimi from a list, and feeling adventurous, I decided to give the umi (sea urchin) a try. As the Boy had a fear of ‘fishy’ taste given that the ingredients are all raw, amazingly there was no hint of it at all. That made our meal all the better, and till now I still dream of the wonderful sweet taste of the umi and snow crab.